The San Jose Earthquakes aren’t in the best spot in the Western Conference standings, but a much-needed win under interim coach Mark Watson has given the club some momentum and reason for optimism.
MLS-worst D.C. United is still looking for both.
San Jose goes for its first set of back-to-back victories this season Saturday night when host United get another opportunity to snap their franchise-record longest winless stretch.
The Earthquakes (4-6-6), the defending Supporters’ Shield winners, are only ahead of Chivas USA in the West, but they’re just four points back of fourth-place Vancouver following last Saturday’s 2-1 victory at Colorado. Goals by Steven Lenhart, his first of 2013, and Sam Cronin made Watson a winner in his debut. He took over for former boss Frank Yallop, who led the Earthquakes to a 1-5-5 record in his final 11 games before parting ways with the club.
“There’s a lot of similarities, but (Watson) has definitely put his mark on it, his spin,” striker Chris Wondolowski, the reigning MLS MVP, told the Earthquakes’ official website. “He’s definitely detail-oriented, very specific, which is something that we need at this moment, and he’s doing well with that. I think a lot of the guys are buying into it.”
However, the Earthquakes still have plenty of room for improvement as they try to build off their first road win. Last season’s MLS leaders with 72 goals, they have 15 after netting just one in the final 72 minutes last Saturday against 10-man Colorado.
“We were very happy with the three points - it’s been a while,” goalkeeper Jon Busch told MLS’ official website. “But if you look at it objectively, I don’t think we were happy with how we closed the game off, holding on rather than dictating a little bit more.”
Busch can’t be happy with his effort. His 1.50 goals-against average is fourth-worst in MLS among goalkeepers with 13 or more games played and hasn’t posted a shutout in his last 12 matches.
He’ll face a United side with a league-low seven goals - six fewer than any club.
Former Earthquake Dwayne De Rosario’s first-half penalty kick - which moved him past Taylor Twellman for sixth in league history with 102 goals - snapped D.C.’s 314-minute scoreless drought last Saturday, but D.C (1-11-3) fell 2-1 to Toronto FC as its winless skid hit 13 (0-10-3).
“I think everybody is just shaking their heads at this point,” said midfielder Brandon McDonald, who was traded from San Jose to United in 2011.
That has to be the case with the team’s results at RFK Stadium. D.C. won a league-best 12 home games a year ago when it advanced to the Eastern Conference finals, but the club has been outscored 16-5 during an 0-6-1 stretch against visiting teams and 24-6 overall during its winless spell.
The Earthquakes will try to end their four-game stretch outside Santa Clara with a fourth straight road victory over United.
San Jose is 5-1-2 in the last eight between these clubs after Wondolowski and Lenhart each scored twice in a 5-3 Earthquakes home win May 2, 2012.
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